Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Dante, Joan of Arc, Isaac Newton, Napoleon Bonaparte, Beethoven, Charles Dicken, Vincent Van Gogh, Agatha Christie – what do they all have in common?
They all had seizures, according to Epilepsy Newfoundland and Labrador.
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes sudden bursts of electrical energy in the brain, which produce sudden, brief seizures, according to the charity.
Their website states that approximately 300,000 Canadians – equaling one per cent of the population – are affected by this seizure disorder. Each year, one in 2,000 people are diagnosed with epilepsy, and each day, an average of 38 people in Canada learn they have this disorder.
The website also states that 60 per cent of new patients are children or senior citizens. With a prevalence of seven percent (1 in 14) of these over the age of 65 affected, epilepsy is the third most common neurological disorder in seniors, after dementia and stroke.
March 26 was proclaimed Purple Day for Epilepsy in Grand Falls-Windsor.
“Purple Day will be celebrated on March 26 annually to increase understanding, reduce stigma and improve the quality of life for people with epilepsy throughout the country and globally,” read Mayor Al Hawkins during the proclamation signing at a town council meeting in early March.
Purple Day is a global effort dedicated to promote epilepsy awareness that was founded by nine-year-old Cassidy Morgan of Nova Scotia.
In an attempt to give back to Epilepsy Newfoundland and Labrador, Tracey Rheault planned fundraising and awareness events for the first time this year.
“The reason why I started this is because my mom has epilepsy and they have been very supportive of me in the last couple of years and I felt like I had to give back,” Rheault said.
Her mother, Judy Reid, began having seizures at the age of nine, Rheault said, and
because the condition she was later diagnosed with is so rare, she was misdiagnosed over the years.
The family found out five years ago that Reid has cavernomas, which is genetic.
“You can have stroke, bleed in your brain, memory issues, and eventually over time if it is not taken care of by operating, you will have MS symptoms,” Rheault said.
Rheault said she has since tested positive for the condition as well, adding at the moment, she herself do not have epilepsy.
“It’s actually a 50/50 chance, so now that I have it, my children have a 50/50 chance,” Rheault said. “It’s like going left or right.”
Her family has received so much support from Epilepsy Newfoundland and Labrador that she decided she would plan events for Purple Day this year.
“They even give out scholarships to people with epilepsy. It’s amazing the stuff they do,” Rheault said. “They are not funded, they are independently operated, so anything that they bring in is through Purple Day, their calendar sales and they have a wonderful thrift store underneath their offices where they get a lot of their money. Once I found all of that out I thought ‘we have to give back.’ They give so much to people with epilepsy that I just thought that this was the right thing to do.”
Her daycare held a bake sale, sold tickets on a painting, and had a gift basket with donated items from people and business within the community and anyone who donated $2 had their name in for a draw.
And it’s not all about the funds, it’s also important to bring awareness to people of epilepsy.
“When my mom has seizures and she’s in the daycare, the children, some of them are kind of like ‘wow, what’s going on,’” Rheault said. “So it’s to bring awareness to children about what it’s all about. I find since we’ve started talking about it, the children are so much more comfortable with it.”
Rheault also made contact to a couple of her friends who also operate daycares in the area, and they jumped on board to help as well.
“Next year we’re hoping to go bigger,” Rheault said. “With the help of Central Health, we’re going to send out the information to everybody in the daycares.”
Rheault said she would like to be able to do more for Epilepsy Newfoundland and Labrador, and is looking for volunteers to form a local committee. Anyone interested can call 489-1520.
For more information, visit www.epilepsynl.com.